Napolitano asks state congressional delegation to sustain funding for UC

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UC President Janet Napolitano is asking California’s congressional delegation to fully support strong and sustained funding for programs integral to the University of California, including federal student aid programs and research.

In a Feb. 24 letter, Napolitano outlined the university’s appropriation priorities — including the Federal Pell Grant program, basic and applied research and investment in multi-agency research initiatives. In addition, Napolitano urged Congress members to keep these priorities in mind during the appropriations process for fiscal year 2017.

“It’s the kind of thing that any attentive, knowledgeable and smart college president would do,” said Henry Brady, dean of the campus’s Goldman School of Public Policy. “We need to alert the members of the California delegation of our priorities.”

The university receives approximately $8.5 billion in federal funding, including $1.6 billion in federal student financial aid, $2.8 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments and nearly $3 billion in federal research funds, according to a UC press release about the letter.

According to Napolitano’s letter, several years of budgetary challenges have contributed to cuts in key UC programs, including research and education programs funded by the nondefense discretionary portion of the federal budget. UC administrators, however, are optimistic that the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which would extend the nation’s debt limit through 2017, will provide much needed sequestration relief through fiscal year 2017.

“There’s always concern that funding will decrease, and that’s why we’re here — that’s why we work with the congressional delegation,” said Gary Falle, UC associate vice president for federal government relations. “We hope to sustain and possibly increase that funding.”

Unlike funding from the state of California, UC funding from the federal government is not direct, according to an email from Carol Christ, director of the campus’s Center for Studies in Higher Education. Instead, the university must lobby Congress to budget and appropriate funds for its various programs, she said.

“This is really a standard ‘lobbying’ letter,” Christ said in an email. “I expect the California delegation to be sympathetic.”

Congress and the president are supposed to reach a budgetary agreement by the start of the 2017 fiscal year in October.

Contact Adam Iscoe at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @iscoe_dc.